Robinson's Ribs location could become 21 townhouses

Development corporation recommends Lexington as preferred developer

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Madison Street could be getting 21 new townhouses at the site of the former Robinson's Ribs and District 97 school headquarters, following the Oak Park village board decision Monday to pick Lexington Homes as the preferred developer of the property.

The board voted to accept the recommendation of the Oak Park Economic Development Corporation (OPEDC), a public-private organization hired by the village to attract business development to Oak Park, to pick Lexington over six other proposals.

The townhouses would be located on two parcels currently owned by the village government. The combined site is 42,000 square feet. One parcel, 970 Madison St., served until last year as the D97 administration building. The second parcel, 934-936 Madison St., was the longtime home of Robinson's Ribs. That iconic restaurant has since relocated one block east on Madison St.

Two trustees – Simone Boutet and Dan Moroney – voted against the recommendation, both arguing that they wanted to see more architectural detail on the proposal before moving forward with a preferred developer.

Moroney, a local real estate developer, noted that the proposal did not include renderings of the townhouses and a slideshow by OPEDC merely included renderings of other townhouses Lexington has built. 

"I'm fine with the use and the scale of construction, but the architecture is very important to me," he said. "For me to recommend this plan, I really want to have a good concept of what it would look like." 

Moroney added that a "copy and paste" of images of other properties Lexington has built "is not good enough." Moroney said he'd rather table the proposal until a rendering is available.

Lexington has hired the Chicago-based architectural firm of Pappageorge Haymes as the design team.

Multiple other trustees and Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb emphasized to the developers that the village wants distinctive architecture and not cookie-cutter townhomes.

Boutet said the village should also give closer consideration to the proposal by Paragon Real Estate to build an independent senior housing facility with 74 units. 

OPEDC Executive Director John Lynch said the Paragon proposal "had its merits" but ultimately was rejected by the OPEDC board because at six stories "it might be slightly dense for the neighborhood." 

Lynch added that the senior housing could be a burden on the village because of a potential increased need for "emergency services." However Lynch said that Paragon had expressed interest in looking at other possible development sites in Oak Park for a senior housing project.

Boutet said the Robinson property's proximity to Rush Oak Park Hospital seems an opportunity to locate seniors near necessary health services to create a "continuity of services for that region." Rush Oak Park Hospital has just begun construction of a new $25 million emergency room that will face Madison Street.

Trustee Jim Taglia, a former trustee of Oak Park Township, agreed that the idea of senior housing for the site "needs to be studied a little bit more," adding that the township studied the topic of the need for senior housing over the last few years and could provide valuable input on the proposal.

Under the Lexington proposal, the development company would purchase the property for just over $1 million, the same price proposed by Paragon. The five other developers that responded to the request for proposals include: Aetna Development Corporation to purchase the property for $900,000 to build an auto parts store; Clark Street Real Estate to pay $825,000 and build a grocery store; GW Properties to pay $850,00 and build a commercial and retail/office building; Hammersley Architects to build a public space, residential and business incubator (no suggested purchase price); and Keystone Ventures to pay $1 million and build multi-tenant retail.

The board's approval of Lexington Homes as the preferred developer is the first step in the process of approving a redevelopment agreement and planned development, which will be reviewed by the village's Plan Commission, a citizen advisory commission, and an independent architect hired by the village – the village has hired architect Floyd D. Anderson of architecture firm Lohan Anderson. Final approval will rest with the village board.

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

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Reader Comments

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Linda Beaton Easley  

Posted: June 8th, 2017 5:21 PM

I live rt off Madison and was looking very forward to the Madison Street Corridor Project! What happened to this and the anchor grocery store??? Does anyone have any info , maybe I missed a meeting...

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: June 8th, 2017 12:40 AM

these look great. we need more of these around town

Bruce Kline  

Posted: June 7th, 2017 10:13 PM

@Marie Perkins: Instead of another mattress store how about a UFC Fight Club?

Marie Perkins from Oak Park  

Posted: June 7th, 2017 6:44 PM

Why isn't the Village doing something about the vacant building on Wesley and Madison? How long has that been vacant? Why not put townhomes over there or ANYTHING? It is an eyesore and either needs to be torn down or invite an upscale car dealership there. And I won't even mention the old Marshall Field Building. I heard a bank was interested in that space. So what happened? Who here has any ideas on what to turn the Marshall Fields building into? I personally have no idea myself but it should be tasteful not tacky like another mattress store.

Jason Cohen  

Posted: June 7th, 2017 10:42 AM

@David, I wonder if having more people living right on Madison might ultimately help bring in new interesting stores. It seems possible that having more foot traffic in the area might make it more appealing to retailers. It also seems like you could build this with the ground floor being retail which would provide the best of both worlds. I am not a huge fan of the senior living idea mainly because it seems like we have plenty of that in OP already.

David Yamashita from Oak Park  

Posted: June 7th, 2017 8:19 AM

Would it be na%uFFFDve to think that we should expect this real estate opportunity to focus on non residential tax development, especially in light of the unambiguous discussion over the recent D97 referenda? During recent visits to Madison Ave. in Forest Park, my family's discussion on why we like patronizing this area, focused on the fact this is a destination for dining, shopping and services. Convenience without getting in your car after each restaurant or retail transaction is key. This development serves to "chop up" an area that needs more retail continuity.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: June 6th, 2017 5:16 PM

@ David - just be glad its not a methadone clinic, because that was proposed before for the old Girl Scout HQ - now Yoga Studio.

David Montgomery from Oak Park  

Posted: June 6th, 2017 4:57 PM

The block across the street is for sale, too, by Chase Bank. This is the best OPDC can come up with on Madison Street ? Townhouses ? Seems like there is a lack of vision here. Perhaps my expectations are too high and I should just be grateful it's not a high rise...

Dori Bernstein  

Posted: June 6th, 2017 4:55 PM

I doubt that 74 units of senior housing will cause more density problems than 21 three and four bedroom townhouses. The townhouses sound like they will be built for families with children, possibly multiple cars. Families with children will put more burden on our already overburdened schools. What is the overall master plan for Madison Street. Wasn't Madison Street supposed to be retail so we could bring in more tax dollars?

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: June 6th, 2017 4:40 PM

Let's put seniors in need of proximity to medical services into three level townhouses with steep stairways that Seniors can't go up and down.

Richard Fischer from Oak Park  

Posted: June 6th, 2017 3:45 PM

Shouldn't a business district have businesses in it to help the tax base for the town?

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